This article was based on episode 126 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get access to Learn Loft’s Leadership Styles quiz and their Mastering the Mighty Skills toolkit so you can elevate your leadership when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
After studying 45,000 leaders over the last seven years and interviewing three hundred of the best leaders on the planet, LearnLoft CEO John Eades wrote Building The Best. In it, John analyzes the steps managers can take to build their teams by focusing on purpose, skills, trust, and support.
John leads us through the three essential steps we can take to empower our employees to reach their potential.
What is Leadership?
John defines leadership as someone whose actions inspire (breathe life into), empower (help someone else make decisions), and serve others (put someone else’s needs before your own).
Let’s break down these elements.
INSPIRE: CONNECT PEOPLE TO A DEEPER CAUSE
John shares a heartwarming story of a manager whose team felt burdened with the “boring” job of providing closing documents for mortgage sales. To turn around their attitude, the manager asked the mortgage brokers to take pictures of clients signing these closing documents. She then shared the pictures with her team. One day, the manager received a picture back of a single mom buying her first house with her young daughter, smiling from ear to ear.
Every time the employees looked at the picture, they felt energized. Instead of seeing their work as producing closing documents, the team now believed that they were helping make other people’s dreams become a reality. As John puts it, you can be the connector of cause for the people in your organization. When you connect your team to a cause, you breathe life into them.
This is especially important during such a challenging time, with so many employees struggling under pressures of financial hardships, additional workloads, and childcare. John’s rallying cry that people persevere because of purpose, not pay, is an important insight for managers. If we can give our team members a sense of purpose, we give them the strength to thrive during tough times.
EMPOWER: DON’T GET OUT OF THE WAY TOO EARLY
As John sees it, one of the biggest mistakes managers make is thinking they can hire great people and get out of the way. Even the most talented individuals benefit from having a great manager. Most of us need somebody else to push and challenge us. Rarely do we go past the point of discomfort on our own even though we’re usually capable of so much more. The key is to know when to support and when to push your team member so they can reach their optimal state.
Four Stages of Developing Your Employees’ Abilities
Waiting too long to give an employee more free rein can result in them feeling bored or losing faith in their abilities. But if we ask them to make too many decisions too early, we may increase the risk of failure and dampen their sense of competence. To help you gauge each employees’ readiness, John differentiates between four distinct stages of development.
Model. The best leaders first model how to do the expected behavior or output. If you don’t know how to demonstrate the skill, find someone to teach it.
Observe. Have your employee demonstrate the behavior for you while you observe them. John advocates for embracing “the uncomfortable pause.” Instead of offering advice or solving the problem, first ask your employees questions when they are stuck. Then give them the space to come up with their own solutions.
Report Back. Give your employee encouragement to go do it on their own and report back how it went.
Teach. When your employee is able to give over the information to someone else, they have fully integrated the instructions and mastered the skill.
SERVE: FOCUS ON THE MIDDLE 80%
It’s easy to blame the individual when they are underperforming. But leaders with a servant mindset know to reflect on their own behaviors and take responsibility for how they may be failing to set their colleagues up for success.
On the other hand, we also need to learn to detach ourselves from the outcome. We are not wholly responsible for the success of someone else. We can do everything possible to inspire and develop our people, but at the end of the day, it’s their choice whether to opt-in to their growth and success. This is one reason why we must let go of the people who are disruptive or unwilling to grow, and instead invest in the people who want to succeed and are willing to develop. Instead of focusing your energy on improving the low performers, John recommends helping the average performers get to the top of their game.
When a team isn’t reaching their desired goals and outcomes, managers have a choice; they can either blame them for their performance or they can reflect on what is missing from the team’s dynamic. Have you helped the team find an inspiring purpose that is bigger than a paycheck or the company’s financial results? Are you regularly finding the balance between support and autonomy, shifting more authority and responsibility as people demonstrate their ready? Are you focused on fixing the poorest performers instead of investing in those who have shown they’re willing to grow?
A team’s performance can be a wake-up call for managers if only we’re willing to hold up a mirror.
KEEP UP WITH JOHN:
Get access to Learn Loft’s Leadership Styles quiz and their Mastering the Mighty Skills toolkit so you can elevate your leadership when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 126 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.